Ligue 1: Five things we learned in Week 2

PSG ease to win against SC Bastia but Brandao’s madness grabs headlines

Paris Saint-Germain recorded their first three points of the season, in a comfortable two nil victory in their first home match of the 2014-2015 Ligue 1 campaign. The win was relatively straightforward for les Parisiens as a result of the confidence and dominance of their performance, however it wasn’t the footballing aspect of the game that got everybody talking after the match.

The game, despite showcasing obvious on field improvements for Laurent Blanc’s side,  was overshadowed by a violent after match incident involving SC Bastia striker Brandao and PSG midfielder Thiago Motta. A verbal clash between the two Brazillian-born players as they made their way up the tunnel lead to Brandao appearing to head-butt Motta, resulting in Motta’s nose being broken. Brandao will now almost certainly face disciplinary action from the Ligue de Football Professionnel.

Thiago Motta PSG

PSG began Saturday’s early evening game in Blanc’s favoured 4-3-3 formation, with ex-Chelsea defender David Luiz making his Ligue 1 debut and Marquinhos filling in for the injured skipper Thiago Silva, who looks set to miss up to a month’s worth of action .  After missing the recent World Cup through injury, Gregory Van der Wiel made a return to the starting line-up and the youthful Lucas Digne made his second start of the season at left-back.

The Parisien starting midfield three of the in-form Pastore, Thiago Motta and Verratti revealed the strength of the midfield options that Blanc has at his disposal within this current PSG effectif, as French international regulars Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi were both ‘sur le banc’ at kick-off. A formidable starting front three consisted of Ibrahimovic, Cavani and the twenty-two-year old Lucas, whose inclusion in the starting XI upped the Brazillian-born contingent in the PSG side a kick-off to five players.

The start of proceedings set the tone for the rest of the game as the home side set out to dominate the match as soon as referee Amaury Delerue had whistled for kick-off, and Claude Makalélé’s Bastiais side’s outlook appeared to be distinctly negative. However, things didn’t go to plan initially for the side based in Paris’ sixteenth arrondissement, when after a mere seven minutes, key player Zlatan Ibrahimovic had to leave the field of play and be replaced by Lavezzi due to an abdominal injury he picked up when feigning a shot. After sustained dominance, PSG then made the breakthrough when Lucas met a perfectly executed cross to the back post from Van de Wiel to volley past the on-loan Bastia goalkeeper, Alphonse Areola, who was playing against his parent club.

The seeds for the controversy that would follow the game were then sown when Brandao, who was being routinely booed by the Parisien support because of his Olympique de Marseille past, appeared to knee Van der Wiel in the back. Van der Wiel was then replaced by Serge Aurier, who made his Ligue 1 debut in PSG colours, and a post-match diagnosis revealed that the Dutchman had fractured a vertebrate. This will be a tough blow for the former Ajax right-back, who has had so many injury setbacks.

The post-match incident obviously generated a lot of media interest, however it shouldn’t detract from what was an extremely good opening home win for Laurent Blanc’s side. Pastore looks to have put last year’s transfer rumours behind him and appears to be flourishing in the heart of the midfield, as to is Marco Verratti, whose quick free-kick for Cavani’s goal helped seal the three points and a two-nil win.  Cavani, whose control and technique for his first goal of the season was outstanding, appears to relish the opportunity to play without Ibrahimovic, taking the centre-forward position and making it his.

What Saturday’s performance proves above all is the complete versatility that this current PSG side has in abundance, as Blanc’s side finished the match without Van der Wiel, Ibrahimovic, Matuidi or Thiago Silva. This quality will perhaps aid PSG when attempting to combine domestic dominance with continental ambitions. As I said last week, SC Bastia need to win more away points  if they are to improve this year, and the lack of chances they created added to Brandao’s conduct made their trip to the capital a distinct disappointment. Having said that, Maboulou once against demonstrated  his positivity, as he was relentless in his running. He showed good pace to break through on goal in what was the last opportunity of the match, and was unlucky to be expertly dispossessed by David Luiz.

Rennes bounce back to hit six against a weak Evian TG

Philippe Montanier’s Rennes side defeated Evian TG with a good attacking performance which contrasted starkly his side’s away defeat at the Stade Gerland against Lyon in the opening weekend of the season. Rennes’ first home match in Ligue 1’s 77th edition ended in a six-two victory for the Breton side, giving Rennes supporters a lot more positives to take than from last week’s two-nil defeat in which they rarely offered any creativity when going forward. Montanier made an attacking change to the starting eleven against Evian TG, by giving a debut start to new signing from Sochaux, creative midfielder Sanjin Prcic. Vincent Pajot and Gelson Fernandes also returned to the starting line-up.

Ola Toivonen and Paul-Georges Ntep impressed in what was a comfortable win for Montanier’s side. The two January ‘mercato’ signings were in impressive form, with both netting doubles. Mozambique centre-back Mexer surprised with a first-half double of his own. He opened his Ligue 1 goalscoring account with a well placed volley and followed it up by making the most of poor Evian TG defending by scoring a header from a corner.

In truth, Rennes could have scored more and this week’s performance at the Stade de la Route de Lorient combined with last week’s disaster at home to SM Caen have given the Evian TG support little to enjoy. The ever-cutting French football magazine So Foot summed up the position the Savoy-based team find themselves in perfectly, albeit perhaps a little candidly, by announcing that it looks like Evian TG are going to ‘play 36 more preparation games before next season’s Ligue 2 campaign’.

One rare positive for Pascal Dupraz’s side to take from their trip to Brittany was Daniel Vass’ performance. The 25-year-old Dane netted both of his side’s goals, with two tidy finishes, most notably his second which he drilled into the back of the Rennais net with precision. Although it was an overwhelmingly positive performance by Montanier’s side, it must be noted that his team have now conceded four goals in two games, with two coming against a side who are at the moment by far the most inferior in Ligue 1. Stronger sides may take advantage of this defensive weakness as the season progresses.

Olmypique Lyonnais sink to disappointing defeat at Toulouse as their defensive headache worsens

Lyon lost on Saturday night in a below-par away performance in Midi-Pyrénées against Alain Casanova’s Toulouse at the Stadium Municaple, a ground at which OL haven’t recorded a win since 2005. Hubert Fournier adapted his side as a result of the injuries picked up in recent weeks by Milan Bisevac, Steed Malbranque and Nabil Fekir, as well as the long-standing injuries of Guieda Fofana, Clément Grenier and Yoann Gourcuff, with the side moving from the 4-1-3-2 formation they used against Stade Rennais to a 4-3-3 shape. Les Toulousains used their 4-5-1 formation to great effect early on in the first period, with Casanova’s side appearing to dominate the midfield battle.

After threatening in the opening two minutes, Toulouse eventually opened the scoring through their youth product Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro, who made the most of a Lyonnais mix-up in midfield to break through and score on ten minutes. Ferri was unable to control a slack ball in-field from Christophe Jallet which was then recovered by the Argentine centre-midfielder Óscar Trejo and fed through to the 21-year-old Toulouse-born right-winger to finish.

Things went from bad to worse for Fournier’s side, as OL centre-half Umtiti then went down injured before half-time, and he was  replaced by Lindsay Rose. Umtiti’s departure will worry the Lyonnias support, as this added to Fofana and Bisevac’s absences, means that Fournier will have a defensive problem to resolved ahead of this week’s opening Europa League play-off qualifier against Romanian side FC Astra at the Stade Gerland. Wissam Ben Yedder doubled Toulouse’s lead with a free-kick which Anthony Lopes could probably have dealt better with, compounding the OL misery. The 24-year-old Ben Yedder, who looks in fine form, has been tipped for a call-up to the French international set-up.

Fournier’s side pressed Toulouse aggressively in the second-half, in a vain attempt to try to get themselves back in the game.  The Rhône-Alpes side played some good attacking football, and they were eventually rewarded with a goal through Lacazette, after a good move down the left-wing involving Ferri and Yattara. It was, however, too much of a gap for Lyon to close and Casanova’s side earned a memorable three points. Olympique Lyonnais will be hoping to resolve their injury crisis as quickly as possible to regain the level of football  they have previously displayed under Fournier.

Sagnol’s Bordeaux crush Monaco in second-half rout

If ever a warning was needed, last week’s home defeat against Lorient should have been enough for new coach Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco side to realise that they would have to up their game if they are to challenge PSG this year. A humiliating four-one defeat in Aquitaine against Girondins de Bordeaux was obviously not what Jardim had intended to follow up last week’s disappointment with. So far, things haven’t gone to plan for the new coach, whose appointment was supposed to be made with intention of promoting ASM to another level from the side that Claudio Ranieri was in charge of last season.

Things started well for les Monégasques when, at the end of a first-half which Jardim’s side dominated, Dimitar Berbatov, who was starting upfront instead of the benched Radamel Falcao, scored brilliantly with a diving header from a Valère Germain cross just before half-time. However, Sagnol’s side came out of ‘les vestiaires‘ in a new formation, with Plasil replacing Diabaté, allowing Emiliano Sala to play in his favoured centre-forward position, in which he scored 18 goals last season while on loan to Niort in Ligue 2.

Sertic and Khazri then excelled for Bordeaux in a deep midfield partnership, which allowed full-backs Faubert and Contento to push forward and drive balls into the box. The Bordelais pressure became too much for les Monégasques, and within a space of half an hour, Sagnol’s side had scored four times, twice from the spot and twice from crosses from the wing.

In a similar fashion to their opening fixture of the season, Jardim’s side dominated spells of the match, but lacked the cutting edge in the final third of the park that James Rodriguez brought Monaco regularly last season. Jardim’s side have a lot of work to do both technically and psychologically if they are to improve. Uncertainty over Falcao’s situation and position at the club is not helping matters and there is no guarantee that he will remain a Monaco player once this transfer-window ends. One certainty is the fact that Jardim’s side must show more discipline if they are to progress, as ASM have now conceded three penalties in two games, without winning a single league point.

Defensive fragility punishes Olympique de Marseille once more

Leonardo Jardim wasn’t the only new coach in Ligue 1 to suffer an embarrassing defeat on Sunday, as Marcelo Bielsa’s OM slumped to a two-nil home defeat in the newly renovated Stade Vélodrome. Lucas Mendes’ departure to Qatari club El Jaish has left a gaping hole in OM’s centre-back position which it appears the new coach will desperately need to resolve. Despite his poor performance last week against SC Bastia, Jérémy Morel was again forced to play at centre-back.  An estimated fifty-thousands Marseillais spectators turned up to see their side lose to Montpellier.

A simple long ball over the top of the defence was missed by right-back Dja Djédjé and it eventually landed at the feet of Mounier who superbly lobbed the ball over Mandanda on eighteen minutes. Marseille pressed to create opportunities as the game went on and Bielsa’s side had nine shots on target. However they failed to seriously trouble Geoffrey Jourdren in the MHSC goal. The OM defence was eventually cut open with ease again on the counter-attack and Morgan Sanson was left with easiest of finishes at the back post to seal the three points for the Languedoc side.

A replacement for Lucas Mendes is an absolute imperative for Bielsa’s new side if they are to progress.

Author Details

Brendán MacFarlane

I'm a massive French football enthusiast, having fallen in love with all aspects and levels of the sport in France whilst working for a year in the town of Niort. As a French studies student, I'm constantly following what's going on in the French football media and bringing stories to the English-speaking world.

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